Unnatural Disasters

When the Daily News sent truckloads of goods to Staten Island, it wasn’t the food and bottled water that got the most enthusiastic reception from residents battered by Hurricane Sandy.

“Thank God you guys had diapers, thank God theDaily News got diapers,” Salvatore Antonelli said as the News truck laden with the precious cargo arrived.

Antonelli said he and pal Regina Azzarelli have 11 grandchildren between them. And ever since Sandy struck last week, diapers have been in demand.

At the National Diaper Bank Network, we partnered with Huggies and the American Red Cross to get diapers to families hard-hit by the storm. We also got a call from an absolute angel of a man who is personally donating 20,000 diapers to children affected by the storm in New Jersey and New York. We were able to accept large donations and get diapers into disaster areas quickly thanks to our distribution partner, Kids in Distressed Situations. We were honored to be able to help babies in this time of need.

The generosity we’ve seen in the past week has been inspiring. The task of those of us who run non-profits is to find a better way to communicate need outside of these extraordinary events. Diapers, like food, water and housing, are a necessity. During a natural disaster like Sandy, we all recognize that.

But for many families, every day is a disaster where it’s a struggle to meet children’s basic needs. Yet the traditional safety net programs that benefit poor children, like WIC and Food Stamps, do not pay for diapers. Except in extreme circumstances, we don’t treat diapers like the necessities that they are.

One in three families struggles to provide diapers. As a result, babies are left in wet diapers and get rashes and infections. One in twenty moms reports emptying out soiled diapers and reusing them because she cannot afford to change her baby. Those are shocking statistics. Worse: They are unnecessary statistics.

The past week has shown what we can all do when we see people in need and then resolve to help. We need to translate that resolve into an ongoing commitment to reach out to families who are rocked by a layoff, an eviction or a hospital bill that’s more than a year’s pay. People face storms of many kinds. The question is: How committed are we to helping our neighbors weather them?

Follow Joanne Goldblum on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jgoldblum

This post appeared originally in The Huffington Post on November 9, 2012

Advertisements

Does your state charge sales tax on diapers?

We think about basic needs and their availability to people struggling to make ends meet.  But there is not a universal definition of what constitutes a basic need, or agreement on whether such needs should be taxed.  That is apparent when considering the sales tax policies of each state.  For the most part, each state has its own approach to sales tax–whether there is one, what rate it will be, and what it applies to.  Some states, like Alaska, Delaware, New Hampshire, Montana, and Oregon, opt not to have a sales tax at all.  (Hawaii does not officially have a sales tax, but it has an excise tax which business can pass on to the consumer, so it is essentially a sales tax.)  Many states exempt certain basic necessities from tax, but each state has its own approach to what is considered a basic necessity.  For example, several states exempt food, but they often have individual definitions of what counts as food.  Likewise, some state exempt medical supplies, which for some states include all diapers (as in Massachusetts), adult diapers and incontinence supplies only (as in Connecticut, Maryland, and Nebraska), and in other states explicitly do not include diapers.  In other states, diapers are not taxed because they fall under a general exemption for clothing (as in Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont).  Still other states have annual sales tax holidays on certain items (generally during the first week of August or so as families are doing “back to school” shopping), often including diapers.

We have a Sales Tax Survey identifying the specific sales tax policies as they relate to diapers for each state .  Thanks to the Yale Law School Arthur Liman Research Project Students, Matthew Smith, Irina Vaynerman, and Tara Rice for their legal research assistance.

You can find more interesting research related to diaper need on our website here.

%d bloggers like this: